« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
THE APPROPRIATE DUTY AND ORNAMENT OF
THE FEMALE SEX.
SAMUEL MILLER, D. D.
ONE OF THE PASTORS OF THE UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCHES, IN THE CITY OF NEW-YORK.
Ver. 36. Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which, by interpretation, is called Dorcas: this woman was fall of good works and alms-deeds which she did.
37. And it came to pass in those days that fhe was fick, and died : whom, when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
38. And forafmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they fent unto him two men, defiring him that he would not delay to come to them.
39. Then Peter arose, and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber and all the widows stood by him weeping, and fhewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made while fhe was with them.
40. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down and prayed and turning him to the body, faid, Tabitha, arife. And the opened ber eyes; and when she saw Peter fhe fat up.
41. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up; and when he had called the faints and widows, he prefented her alive.
SACRED history differs from profanie, in a variety of important particulars. The latter is chiefly employed in exhibiting the struggles of ambition, the triumphs of power, and the glare of blood-stained honours; the former dwells more on the duties of private life, and especially on the meek, humble, and retiring graces of the Christian. The one presents a splendid, but not always faithful picture, which is calculated to indulge curiosity, and to flatter pride ;.
the other unfolds the heart; displays its character in all the simplicity and correctness of truth; and sets before us examples proper for the imitation of every age and sex, and condition of mankind..
The portion of sacred history before us comprises, within a very small compass, much matter for reflection. It exhibits a character, and a train of circumstances, from which we may at all times learn a variety of important lessons.
There was residing at Foppa, a sea-port town on the Mediterranean, about thirty-four miles northwest from Jerusalem, a certain woman named Tabitha, which by interpretation, is called Dorcas. The for. mer of these names is a Syriac word, signifying a roc or fawn : the latter a Greek word, of the same import. This woman was a disciple. That is, she had embraced the gospel, and lived under its power. Her religion did not consist merely in calling Christ Lord, Lord. She testified the sincerity of her faith by a ho. ly life and conversation. She was full of good works, and of alms-deeds which she did.
But the most sincere and exemplary picty is no defence against the attacks of disease and death. All die, because all have sinned. It canc to pass, there. fore, in those days, that is, when the apostle Peter was preaching in Lydda, a neighboring town, that Dorcas was taken sick and died. Immediately after her death, the pious widows, and other disciples, who had attended her during her illness, having taken a decent and respectful care of the corpse, dispatched messengers to the apostle, entreating him to come to them without delay. Whether they anticipated his raising their departed friend from the dead, or only expected him to attend the funeral, and to comfort them under their bereavement, we have scarcely ground even to conjecture. At any rate, in sending for the apostle, they manifested at once, their attachment and respect for the deceased, and a taste for his evangelical instruc. tion and conversation.
I know scarcely any thing in this world, more de, sirable, or more gratifying, than the friendship, thể consolations, and the kind offices of the pious; and especially in the day of trial, and at the hour of death, At seasons of this kind, the gay and the worldly are apt to fly from us. But even if they give us their presence, what will it avail? Alas! miserable comforters are they all! What can they tell us of that Gos. pel which hath poured eternal day on the night of the grave;" or of that Blood which cleanseth from all sin? What can they tell us of the exceeding great and precious promises of everlasting consola. tion-and of a good hope through grace? When my last hour is come, let pious friends surround my bed! Let those who fear God, and have an interest at the throne of grace, direct my trembling aspirations to Jesus, the friend of sinners! Let pious hands close my eyes! And let devout men carry me, like Stephen, to my burial!
The holy apostle on receiving the summons, entered immediately into the spirit of that pious friendship which had called him, and followed the messengers without delay. When he came to the dwelling which had been lately adorned with the piety and the active beneficence of Dorcas, he found her lifeless remains lying in an upper chamber, and surrounded with mourning widows. On his entering the apartment, they gathered about him, weeping and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas bad made while she was with them. It is probable from the tenor of the narrative; that these pious widows had been them selves the objects of her alms-deeds; and that the coats and other garments with which they were then clothed, had been made by the hands, and bestowed by the bounty of their deceased benefactor. These they showed to the apostle, as testimonies of her be. nevolent character, and as causes for lamenting her departure. Simple, but touching and elegant eulo,
gium! O how much more precious to the ingenuous mind, to be embalmed in the memory of the virtuous and the wise, than to be commemorated by the sculptured marble, or the massy pyramid! How much better than all the blaze of heraldry, or " pomp of power," to have it said concerning us, when we are gone "There lies one who fed me when I was hungry; who clothed me when I was naked; who enlightened my mind with heavenly knowledge, and pointed to me the path of life eternal."
The apostle having witnessed those tears, and contemplated these memorials, requested the mourners to withdraw, that he might avoid all appearance of ostentation in the miracle which he was about to perform; and that he might with more perfect freedom pour out his soul in prayer. When they had retired, he kneeled down and prayed; and, turning him to the body, said Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes; and when she saw Peter she sat up. And be gave her his band, and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.
Who can describe the surprise and joy of the attendants at seeing their amiable friend restored to life and usefulness? Above all, who can describe the mingled emotions of regret and pleasure, which must have filled the mind of Dorcas, to find herself brought back to a world which she had supposed herself to have for ever quitted; and again united to companions whom she had expected never to see more until they should join her in the paradise of God? I dare not attempt the task. Leaving, therefore, this topic of meditation, which however deeply interesting, cannot subserve any important practical purpose,
I hasten to employ the example of this excellent woman as the basis of some very brief and general remarks on the APPROPRIATE DUTY AND ORNAMENT OF THE FEMALE SEX.
And here I shall not stop to enquire, whether the
native character of the female mind is, in alf respects, precisely the same with that of the other sex. What. ever opinion may be formed on this subject, I take for granted, we shall all agree, that Women ought not to be considered as destined to the same employments with Men; and, of course, that there is a species of education, and a sphere of action, which more particularly belong to them. There was a time indeed, when a very different doctrine had many advocates, and appeared to be growing popular :---viz. that in. conducting education, and in selecting employments, all distinctions of sex ought to be forgotten and con. founded; and that females are as well fitted to fill the academic Chair, to shine in the Senate, to adorn the Bench of justice, and even to lead the train of War, as the more hardy sex. This delusion, however, is now generally discarded. It begins to be perceived, that the God of nature has raised everlasting barriers against such wild and mischievous speculations; and that to urge them, is to renounce reason, to contradict ex. perience, to trample on the divine authority, and to degrade the usefulness, the honor, and the real en: joyments of the female sex.
But an error of an opposite kind has gained a la. mentable currency in the world. This is, that the station of females is so humble, and their sphere of duty so extremely limited, that they neither can, nor ought to aspire to extensive usefulness. This is the mistake of indolence, or of false humility; and is as plainly contradicted by reason, by scripture, and by experience, as the extreme before mentioned. While females are shut out by the express authority of God from some offices, and by the common sense of mankind from others; there is yet open to them an immense field for the most dignified activity, in which they may glorify God, render essential service to society, and gain everlasting honor to themselves.
We often have occasion from the sacred desk, to exhibit in contrast, the representations of scripture,